But I was good at this whole duality thing. Why? Well, #1 I'm a Gemini. And #2, I made an art-form out of living a double life during my emotionally conflicted teens when I was torn between the worlds of a.) pleasing my religious mother and b.) living authentically. My high school experience was a mash-up of school followed by ballet class, weekend rehearsals, and homework. Plus, home Bible study, five meetings/week at the Kingdom Hall, and preaching the "good news of the Kingdom" from door-to-door. All that structure and discipline was supplemented with chaperoned parties with other Jehovah's Witness kids where we played wholesome games like Bible charades. HELLO? What perfectly normal, naturally curious teen with raging hormones could sustain such a virtuous lifestyle of discipline, structure and piety? Don't get me wrong. I didn't thrive on disobedience or debauchery but I did crave real life experiences and freedom of choice with the (trust me!) ever-so-clear understanding that "you reap what you sow". I just wanted to make my own mistakes and learn from them rather than living a life dictated to me for the sole purpose of keeping me on the straight and narrow path leading to everlasting salvation. I was a teenager, for God's sake, dying to live in the moment and exploit my youth! I didn't give a fuck about eternity! So, like most teenagers prone to experimentation and rebellion against a tightly wound upbringing, my life also included skipping class, smoking Marlboro Lights on my way to ballet, bong hits and keg stands at unchaperoned parties that got busted by the police... and a little nookie here and there. And you know what? I'm not dead or in jail! I might be headed toward eternal damnation, but I'm okay with that.
Talk about identity crisis! I was battling between pleasing others and pleasing myself. If you ask me, I think I played the roles of "the righteous innocent" and "the typical teen" equally well. The only thing that sucked was that my insides felt raw with conflict. I wanted nothing more than for my mom to love and be proud of me. And I wanted my congregation to think I was a good girl that shunned "worldly" behavior. But I also craved independence and autonomy. Through it all, I think I managed to come across as a well adjusted teen that emanated happiness even while struggling with that double life of piousness and rebellion. But eventually shit hit the fan because, at 18 years old, I was forced to make a choice about what I wanted to do with my life and who I wanted to be when I grew up. I chose what seemed to be the easy route and the one that was supposed to lead to "J.O.Y."; which I was taught as the acronym and result of putting Jehovah first, then Others and lastly Yourself. So, I obediently relinquished my goals, hopes and dreams and submerged myself completely into life as a Jehovah's Witness. Yep, I let the approval of my mom and congregation supersede my desire to go away to college, explore my artistic dreams and create my own life experiences like the rest of the kids my age. Besides, I was well aware that the ''wrong" choice would mean losing my support system. It was a "my way or the highway" type of situation and this sheltered teen wasn't ready to face the world completely alone. But I eventually drank the Kool-Aid and even duped myself into believing that, what my mom and congregation wanted and expected of me, I wanted and expected of myself. And I led that life as a devout Jehovah's Witness for years, dutifully living according to Biblical principles while preaching and teaching "the good news of the Kingdom" door to door full-time. Dutifully "moral" but undoubtedly conflicted. It finally got to the point where I just couldn't fake the funk anymore. I felt stagnant and depressed. You can only live someone else's truth for so long until you feel the urge to jump out of your own skin.
Dueling with duality took a toll on my spirit. To my parent's surprise, I sent myself to go see a psychotherapist. I guess I was such a good actress they had no idea I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown! In all honesty, I think I simply needed a shrink to validate my newfound courage to honor my true feelings, trust myself and choose to live my life, my way. Authenticity felt like my only option for a life worth living; a life of real JOY. It had gotten to the point that it felt imperative that I discover my own life purpose, create my own dreams, my own spiritual beliefs and my own moral code without the external pressure and indoctrination. I needed to explore my true identity. Bottom line... I needed to be ME!
Maybe this is what my EX was facing as we approached our 6th year of marriage. Maybe for him it was the AA meetings that reminded him of who he really was and gave him the courage to trust his decision to end our marriage. Perhaps he had been dueling with duality too...? Maybe he was embattled between the roles of "the loving husband" and "the cheating bastard". Perhaps he struggled with the fear of losing my love and our relationship but also craved his independence and autonomy. Maybe he could no longer pretend to be a happily married man while struggling with the double life of infidelity and cheating. Perhaps duality drained his spirit too. I accept that. After all, when we first met, neither of us believed that the institution of marriage nor a legal document could validate our intense love and commitment to one another. We were far from traditional; both of us free-spirits that thrived on our creative, artistic and unpredictable lifestyles. Yet, at the same time, we couldn't envision our lives apart. Unfortunately, rather than devising our own way of reconciling our free-spirited natures with our desire for life partnership and a sense of family, we got sucked into society's pressure to live the American Dream. The next thing you know, we were walking down the aisle and legally bound "'til death do us part".
As I sat alone, processing these thoughts and emotions in my studio apartment, I started to wonder if our divorce was inevitable. Were we doomed anyway because we let ourselves become seduced by society's traditions and the promise of "happily ever after" rather than following our gut instinct? Like my teenage years, had I duped myself into believing that, what others wanted for me (or themselves), I wanted too? Did my EX just beat me to the punch? Would marriage eventually feel for me like the stifling institution I had imagined where I was destined toward restlessness, depression and a need for a way out? Was I simply able to sustain the "married" role longer than my EX, even though I too am an independent, free-spirit? Was I just sticking it out based on principle alone or because my Biblical upbringing taught me that when you commit to something your "yes means yes"? It was these thoughts and sobering realizations that prompted some understanding and forgiveness. It didn't erase the reality of the pain and hurt, but it definitely soothed the wounds. I didn't feel angry at my EX anymore and I gained a little piece of my soul back. I felt like I could finally move forward, confident that our divorce, his cheating and his lying wasn't necessarily a reflection of me or my ability to be a good wife, lover and friend. It was a reflection of him, his self-worth and his ability to live consciously, honestly and embrace his authenticity. This was just a part of his life journey toward discovering his higher self. But it was also a HUGE reminder and learning lesson for me about the importance of maintaining my own true sense of self in all of my relationships; with friends, lovers and family members. To experience real joy in my life, I needed to re-discover who I was without my EX, what I truly wanted out of life and how to love myself so that I could learn to love someone else again.